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THE SEAL OF THE COLUMBIA HISTORICAL 

SOCIETY. 

By ELIZABETH BRYANT JOHNSTON. 
(Read before the Society November 10, 1902.) 

The model of the seal adopted by the Columbia 
Historical Society has been in existence fourscore 
years and is recognized as one of, if not the most ex- 
quisite work of art, adorning the national capital. It 
is the Franzoni clock or Clio, the Muse of History. 

In the spring of 1894, Dr. Toner, our much-lamented 
president, took this society to his hospitable home 
where we met until he was so silently summoned to 
enter into rest. At the first board meeting of that 
fall, at my suggestion, a committee was appointed to 
design a seal to be used by the society. The president 
selected for this committee, of which I was made chair- 
man, Dr. Marcus Baker and Dr. Swan M. Burnett, Dr. 
Toner of course being a member ex-officio. Before the 
" Committee on the Seal" I strenuously urged the adop- 
tion of an engraving of the marble clock above the 
north door of the Hall of Statuary— old Hall of Kep- 
resentatives— claiming this significant and classic cre- 
ation as our special right, inasmuch as we are pledged 
to the service of the Muse of History. The committee 
agreed with me, but we found such determined opposi- 
tion from the president that we did not for the time 
being urge action. Dr. Toner said he thought it would 
be too common, as he had seen it used as an advertise- 
ment. To this I replied I had seen, quite recently, 
Murillo's divine "Annunciation" on a circus wagon, 

214 



COL. HIST. SOC, VOL. VI, PL. XIII. 




CARIvO Franzoni. 

Born at Carrara, Italy, about 1785. 
Died at Washington City, 1833. 

From a portrait by Bonani (1818), in possession of 
Dr. Chas. W. Franzoni. 



Johnston: The Seal of the Society. 215 

and "The Chocolate Girl" on a bottle of quack medi- 
cine. However, we soon discovered that the real objec- 
tion to the clock was the determination to use for our 
seal the figure of Columbus standing on the globe, a 
quaint statuette of bronze which Dr. Toner had found 
in his unceasing quest for the antique and the beautiful. 
I hoped to have had that little figure to show you to- 
night, but it is at present unattainable, being in the 
Toner collection at the Library of Congress. It would 
have given pleasure to gratify the president, but really 
Columbus was impossible. There were several meet- 
ings of the committee with report of " Progress' ' for 
which false statement conscience had to be salved, for 
in truth we never moved an inch. 

All who knew Dr. Toner recognized that one of his 
strongest and finest traits was a quiet resistance un- 
til opposition weakened and his desire was achieved. 
As his judgment was sound and guided by truth as 
well as sentiment, this very characteristic was the force 
which made him a benefactor and such a fine citizen. 

When the attention of President Kasson was directed 
to this committee of long standing, he reinforced it by 
adding Mr. Justice Hagner. We soon agreed and put 
a photograph of the Franzoni clock in the hands of the 
Neale Engraving Company with an eminently satisfac- 
tory result. The seal was accepted by the society and 
we assuredly realize "a thing of beauty is a joy for- 
ever." We claim that as seal and insignia it is com- 
prehensive and significant. The wheel to the car of 
time presents the dial of the clock and the calm figure 
impartially inscribes passing events. It charms with 
its happy symbolism and in the fact that this clock 
was created here, in the very heart of the nation ; there- 
fore, by right of heritage, it belongs to the "Columbia 
Historical Society,'' which, with reverential purpose, 



216 Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 

has assumed the pious duty of guarding local history. 
Yet, I am not entirely satisfied. This seal should be 
more generally known, exhibited on all our cards, in- 
vitations, not alone on receipts and the title page of 
our Annual Eecords, used not as an advertisement, but 
as an introduction, until the citizens of the District 
realize that they have^ a right to it, and unite with us 
in preserving history, which, though made here, is not 
without interest to the entire- country. 

Naturally, we wish to establish the history of this 
clock. That is difficult. As early as 1805, it is said, at 
the suggestion of Benjamin Latrobe and with the 
approval of Mr. Jefferson, this government engaged 
several Italian artists to decorate the capitol at Wash- 
ington, chief of whom was Griuseppi Franzoni, sculptor, 
friend and compatriot of Canova. He was a brilliant 
artist of the Canova school. Franzoni brought to 
America a lovely wife of fifteen, who left with her 
parents a little daughter of three months. He was ac- 
companied by artists in other lines, painters, engravers, 
modellers, carvers, etc., and he brought also a retinue 
of servants. 

Antoine Canova was the first choice, but he was en- 
gaged in his splendid work for the Duke of Tuscany, 
so his relative, Franzoni, accepted the proposal. These 
children of the sun had a dread, which in many cases 
seems to have been prophetic, of our inhospitable cli- 
mate. Though few of them returned to their native 
shores, the last penny of contract was exacted, which 
provided return money for each individual, and whether 
they died here or returned to Italy— the claim was al- 
lowed "to close contract with the United States." It 
is rather amusing to read in Congressional Records of 
"return money" being allowed for people who had for 
years rested in American cemeteries. They were not 



Johnston : The Seal of the Society. 217 

allowed extravagant remuneration, the largest sum 
never reaching five dollars per day. Though Fran- 
zoni was a sculptor of established reputation in the 
art world of Florence, he received this niggardly sum. 
It is, therefore, a matter of congratulation that these 
claims were approved. They worked together for eight 
years. New arrivals were added and they formed* a 
happy colony, absorbing American ideas and in return 
educating our citizens. They were truly valuable, 
worthy citizens and their children's children dwell 
among us to-day. Franzoni took or built a comfortable 
house on Capitol Hill, 120 B Street S. E.; there he 
lived, his children were born, and there, early in 1851, 
he died. This dwelling within or remembrance has 
been removed to make way for our magnificent palace 
of books. 

Franzoni was an accomplished gentleman, accus- 
tomed to cultivated society. He was congenial, and 
soon became intimate with Mr. Jefferson, dining at 
the executive mansion every Sunday during the admin- 
istration of the sage of Monticello. One of his grand- 
daughters has handsome pieces of silver presented to 
him by President Jefferson. 

These artists worked earnestly in the important task 
they had undertaken, modelling, chiselling, carving, 
painting, until transformation and beauty glowed be- 
neath their magical touch. We assume they wrought 
with enthusiasm. It is an attribute of their warm 
blood and an element in the power to create. They 
were surely not of this age, for they wrote no canons 
of art from their special point of view ; left no written 
record of their achievements. I wish they had, for then 
their lines would not have been so difficult to study. In 
looking over the files of the papers of the times, espe- 
cially the National Intelligencer, it is surprising that 



218 Records of the Columbia Historical Society. 

such art creations as were in the old capitol should 
not receive even a passing mention. Alas, the Wash- 
ington letter writer had not appeared on the theater 
of journalism, consequently there is dearth of light on 
that phase of our history. Webster, Clay, Preston and 
several others gave assurance of their appreciation. 
John Quincy Adams addressed the Muse thus: 

"Come down thou marble figure upon the floor; 
And write the name of each candidate for fame." 

Though these artists left no art homilies in print, 
the influence they exercised in moulding taste is ap- 
parent from the fact that for half a century we made 
no mistake in our public buildings, for example, the 
faultless Patent Office and the stately Treasury. 

What became of this eight years of artistic labor and 
of this large expenditure, for the Government, though 
judicious, had liberal ideas in regard to the decoration 
of our legislative halls. Ah, the sequel is a sad, sad 
story. Of all this beauty, all this labor, all this outlay, 
not even a catalogue escaped the fiendish vandalism of 
Admiral Cockburn on August 24, 1814. Think of the 
anguish of those men as they stood silent witnesses of 
that sacrificial pyre. Think of them as they wandered 
through the ruin and the ashes day after day. 

Some of these artists were so disheartened that they 
at once returned home. Franzoni never rallied from 
the shock, and in a few months, early in 1815, he died. 
The figure of liberty above the speaker's desk in the 
old hall is all that remains of his work. 

An old print of the Hall of Legislation in Mr. Glenn 
Brown's admirable and exhaustive book on the Capitol, 
shows the charred remains of a plaster model of a clock 
over the north door of the Hall of Eepresentatives. 
The figure is seated, the head turned to the west; this 



Johnston: The Seal of the Society. 219 

was made by Giuseppi Franzoni, and the model must 
have been his wife. The chariot is too short to be 
graceful. The wheel with dial on it was in fair con- 
dition. 

In the summer of 1815 Colonel Samuel Lane, Com- 
missioner of Public Buildings, sent Giovanni Andrie 
to Italy to secure other artists. In Congressional 
Record of first session of twenty-fourth Congress is 
found the sum of compensation to each artist, and in 
addition says Andrie "engaged Franzoni as statuary 
and sculptor and Iardella, one of the inferior artists. ' ' 
Carlo Franzoni brought quite a household of domestics 
and assistants. He married and lived on Four-and-a- 
half Street opposite the Presbyterian Church, in a 
handsome house. Angel heads were carved above each 
window. These have been torn out to enlarge the aper- 
ture for business purposes. We are so determined not 
to preserve good things. He had elegant ideas of fur- 
nishing, as indicated by two carved white mantel pieces 
in the Supreme Court room, then the Senate chamber, 
which a naval officer purchased from him, and pre- 
sented to the Government. 

Like his brother, Carlo Franzoni soon succumbed to 
the rigor of our climate. He died in 1819, leaving a 
wife and several children poorly provided for. The 
City Directory of 1822 gives the information that Mrs. 
Franzoni has opened her house for boarders. These 
brothers were fine men physically and mentally. Carlo 
was six feet four inches tall. A portrait, now owned 
by Dr. Charles Franzoni (grandson), shows a handsome 
face. It was painted by Bonani and the New York 
Historical Society has offered a large sum for it. The 
Franzoni family was of gentle blood— fair with blue 
eyes. They came from the Cararra district and a love 
of marble seems to have been natural, as well as the 



220 Records of the Columbia Historical Society. 

eye to see an imprisoned form of beauty in each block. 
The deaths of these two artists were grievous losses to 
this country. They were interred in St. Patrick's 
Cemetery but were removed to Oak Hill, where they 
both rest in the same grave. 

Carlo coming so soon after his brother's death, it 
would seem natural that he would complete his unfin- 
ished work. However, this is mere conjecture. From 
his work in the Vatican it is evident he was the finer 
artist of the two. There does not seem a doubt that 
he made the Franzoni clbck. It is not a copy of the 
work by Giuseppi; it is so superior. It may be con- 
sidered an adaptation. All controversy seems to be 
settled by the fact of the chariot being inscribed "C. 
Franzoni, 1819." It was not put in place for several 
years after his death. One conclusive proof of its 
authorship is the fact that there was no one else who 
could do it. The assertion that Francisco Iardella 
executed this rare work scarcely need be considered. 
If Iardella was a sculptor, he never claimed to be one, 
and he is in the first Washington Directory put down 
as "Carver at the Capitol," and Giovanni Andie as 
"Carver in Chief at the Capitol." Iardella no doubt 
put the wonderful clock in place. 

Carlo Franzoni was here such a short period that he 
produced little else save the clock. The beautiful 
"Justice" in the Supreme Court room (now the Law 
Library) was from his chisel, at least the design is his 
and he no doubt executed the noble figure of the woman, 
but the youth inscribing the Constitution, shows the 
'prentice hand and was doubtless completed after his 
death. He also modelled and executed the corn pillars 
in the east vestible and lower entrance to the Capitol. 
One of the few of his utterances preserved in the f amliy 
is his saying: "The thought in these columns is Mr. 
Jefferson's, I am only his interpreter." 



Johnston: The Seal of the Society. 221 

From the fact that Latrobe had these columns placed, 
they bear his name. It will be remembered that Mrs. 
Tolloppe savagely said of the corn column: "It is the 
only original thought I met in America. ' ' 

The Franzoni clock is conceded to be a perfect crea- 
tion. The figure of the Muse is after the girlish form 
of Eurydice Franzoni, the daughter of Giuseppi, a 
woman of rare beauty and charm. She married Mr. 
Francis Bernard Simms and died in this city in 1871. 
Her children and grandchildren still reside here. 

It is, therefore, with no small degree of satisfaction 
and local pride that we send forth this seal of the 
Columbia Historical Society. "We send it with all 
the more complaisance that we know the Muse to be 
the counterpart of a lovely daughter of the District of 
Columbia.